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For Portugal's SC Month, Palestine & LRA, Working Methods for New Members

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 2, updated -- With Portugal taking over the Security Council presidency for November, their focus is on working methods, training incoming elected members, and pushing Portuguese as a seventh UN language.

  In his ten months on the Council, Portugal's Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral has stood out from his colleague in a commitment to the primacy of the General Assembly, most recently by refusing to show up for the Security Council's meeting on Yemen held the same afternoon as the General Assembly voted on electing five new Council members.

  Now the five elected are being brought in, as a form of training, into Council consultations. Togo comes in first, since it will take the presidency in early 2012, as the alphabet turns.

  Azerbaijan's Permanent Representative told Inner City Press he is returning home and so will start after the other Permanent Representatives, who attend the so-called "Finnish workshop" on November 17-18 then start watching closed door consultations.

  Since Finland is running next October, against Australia and Luxembourg, for a 2013-14 seat, some wonder if they can still run the Finnish workshop, or it is gives them a head-start.

  Of those joining the Council, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Morocco are viewed as solid votes for Palestinian membership in the UN. Guatemala took a reservation from a Group of 77 position to this effect, but most recently voted "yes" for Palestine to join UNESCO. So it remains possible that Palestine's vote count goes up in November. But is it to nine or merely eight positive votes?

   Click here for Press review of Cabral's first nine SC months.

  Cabral's press conference on his program of work for the month, originally scheduled for the normal midday time, was moved back until after deadline and business hours at 6:15 pm.

  But the one-page Program of Work has emerged and reflects, among other things, a November 9 meeting on protection of civilians at which Portugal's president will attend, and an end of the month debate on working methods.

  On November 21, Yemen is on the agenda, by name. Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman, when the Council passed its resolution on Yemen, said she would stay in New York until the Council referred Saleh to the International Criminal Court and froze his assets. Since then, she told Inner City Press she was going to meet with Hillary Clinton. What will happen November 21?

  Another US connection is on November 14, when the Lord's Resistance Army will be considered.

(c) UN Photo
Cabral, principled on Working Methods, months of answers to come

  After US President Obama announced he'd send forces to Uganda against the LRA, Inner City Press on October 18 asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman if there was any coordination with the UN and its peacekeeping missions:

Inner City Press: the Obama Administration has announced, to its credit, that it’s sending troops to help track down Joseph Kony and the LRA. But I wanted to know whether there is any coordination in this with MONUSCO or whether this also complies with international law.

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, I am glad to hear you approve of what the Obama Administration is doing, Matthew. I don’t have any comment on that at the moment. If I do, we’re certainly aware of the reports, and…

Inner City Press: Was MONUSCO informed?

Spokesperson: As I say, I am aware of the reports and we’re aware of the reports. If I have any further details, then I’ll, I’ll let you know.

Two days later, the UN provided Inner City Press with this:

Subject: Your questions on MONUSCO
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply
Date: Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 11:11 AM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

The Department for peacekeeping Operations says that:

MONUSCO was not consulted about the US decision to send a small group of military advisers to assist the forces that are countering the LRA, before it was officially announced on 14 October. Regarding coordination, there are currently two US information analysts based at the Mission's Joint Information and Operation Centre in Dungu, in Province Orientale. MONUSCO, consistent with its mandate, works together with the Congolese army (FARDC) and the Ugandan army (UPDF) in Dungu at the JIOC to gather and analyse information about LRA activities and coordinate operations.

MONUSCO is undertaking operations in a number of areas where armed groups are active. The Mission is also providing support to some FARDC operations in compliance with the human rights and due diligence policy. The complete lack of attack helicopters, however, affects the Mission's operations.

  While we publish in full the plea for attack helicopters, the question of the day is how or whether these US "analysts" in countries which are members of the International Criminal Court are somehow exempt from the ICC.

  Perhaps this and other questions will be answered on November 14, or at least during the Portuguese presidency of the Security Council.

Or not.

Update of 7 pm -- Press questions submitted during Cabral's briefing to the Mission's spokesman by e-mail and text message were not asked. This would be a working methods improvement at the UN -- even the IMF does it -- on which we hope to have more: watch this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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